5th Grade Youth Motion Offense: Timing, Entry Passes, & Starting Positions

By Don Kelbick

QUESTION:

I will be coaching a 5th grade boys team this season and looking to teach the kids motion (still haven’t decided between 3-2 and 4-1). I like the drills included in this document but was surprised that the following items were not covered more thoroughly:

- Timing of starting the offense, especially when defensive pressure starts at half court. Would like more insights into how the other four non-ballhandlers should react to half-court pressure, goal to not have first pass above the free throw line extended.

- More options related to starting positions on floor to start a motion offense. For example, in a 3-2 motion set…options such as double stack, wings cross, post start out on wing and post down for wings on low block, etc. In a 4-1 motion set, more details on how the “1″ should move to different areas.

- Advice on varying this start configuration?

ANSWER:

Those are interesting questions and not uncommon. Something to keep in mind, a motion offense is creative and free formed. Your players have to interpret and be allowed to play and figure it out for themselves. You have to remember that the coach has very little control over what happens on the court. If you can live with that, and many coaches can’t, then the motion is a good offense for you.

In regard to 5th graders, I believe that translates to 10 and 11-year-olds, I think it is the only offense to run. Trying to bog down kids of that age with basketball plays is counter-productive. I believe that kids of this age should be taught skills and how to play, not plays.

TIMING & ENTRY PASSES

Timing for 5th graders is an oxymoron. I do not believe that kids of that age are developed enough, either physiologically or skill-wise to really worry about timing. Should it be discussed? Sure. But to expect a 10 or 11-year-old to understand and perform proper timing in the course of a game is not realistic.
Making the first pass below the foul line is a good guideline, but that is more dependent upon the skills of your ball-handlers, rather than your receivers. This is true even at higher levels. Can they control the ball well enough against defense to be able to penetrate deep enough to make the pass? Are they skilled and strong enough to execute the necessary passes? I can’t make those judgments without seeing them play. On the whole, kids of that age really are not.

Possibly, you can create a situation where the entry pass is made higher and your second pass goes below the foul line. Enter to the high post at the top of the key and allow him to enter to the wing. Allow the wing to catch high and dribble down below the wing. There are unlimited things you can do with a little imagination.

STARTING POSITIONS

You can start however you and your players feel comfortable. I would spend more time trying to get them to understand spacing (Admittedly difficult at that age) than worry about starting positions. All of those things you mentioned are great entries. Teach the concepts and what they present and then allow them to play. Correct their spacing and movement, not their sets.

In addition, for the kid of that age, I think the only offense to play would be a 5-out motion. I doubt that you have kids with enough specialized skill to play someone down in the post. You might have someone who is taller than everyone else but that does not mean he should play in the post. When coaching kids of this age, your primary purpose should be development. Taking a kid who is taller than everyone else and sticking him in the lane is unfair to that kid. By doing that, he will never develop the skills he needs to play the game.

Also, looking for specific details on how a particular player should move is not in the philosophy of a motion offense. Motion offense is about freedom. Not only do the players have freedom to move, but you, as a coach, have the freedom to teach what you feel is most important for the player and your team. Just because I want a player to do certain things does not mean that is what you should do. I encourage you to be creative when teaching what players should do. The only rules are the ones that you make. Do with them what you feel is best. Trial and error is the best way to learn anything, especially basketball.

My only advice is to keep it simple. Kids have trouble remembering each other’s names, no less multiple entries.

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By Don Kelbick

QUESTION:

Your site is great and I’ve learned a lot from the motion ebook. Thanks.

I coach 5th grade boys and we’re 0-5. We started using the motion after the first game. The offense is still a mess, but we occasionally get a give and go for a layup that looks kinda like basketball. So while I’m extremely frustrated, I have to admit that we’re improving and the boys haven’t quit.

My only rule now is to basket cut after a pass if the point can’t pass to the wing. However, he just starts dribbling and turns it over. If the point does make the pass and the wing can’t pass it back to the point, he just starts dribbling and he turns it over. The result is usually a fast break for the other guys.

I’m looking for another rule and would specifically like to get the post guys involved in the offense. The rules I’ve seen all seem to be geared to the guards. Any rules for the post guys?

Also, do you have any thoughts on a set? We start in a 1-2-2 now, but that leaves a lot of real estate for the guards to cover against pressure and also seems to clog the lane if the give and go does work. I’m thinking of moving to a 1-3-1 and having the low post move to the weak side after a pass.

ANSWER:

The answers to your problems are child development issues not basketball issues. I would recommend that you find a couple more rules, such as what do you do if you can’t pass to the cutter and what do you do if you are the next receiver and can’t get the ball, but I think you may be missing the big picture.

You say to yourself, “some plays look like basketball,” and “the team is improving,” and the “kids are still playing hard,” and that is a result of coaching. You getting frustrated is the result of the score. I wonder how much of what the other teams do “Look like basketball,” or is it just kids on the other teams being able to do a couple of things individually. To stop that, work on defense and the game will even out. Also, in 5th grade, they shouldn’t post players, all the players should just be learning how to play.

The reason that the kids dribble and get it stolen is more a development issue than anything else. How good of a ballhandler can a 5th grader be? It has more to do with the way they perceive the world. Spacing, timing, speed, etc. are all things in life they need more experience at. There is a reason why young kids shouldn’t cross the street by themselves, because they don’t have enough life experience to determine how far away a car is, what speed it is traveling and how long it will take to get there. It is worse on a basketball court because it is all new experience and there is nothing in real life they can draw on.

If the kid is going to dribble, at least tell him where to go and forget about the offense. If you are going to put the ball on the floor, take a lay-up.

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